This post if from Wednesday, but it still contains very important info including a great interview on the legal history. Please see the original link at: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/in-violation-of-international-treaty-law-federal-government-evicting-standing-rock-this-afternoon-wcz/
Originally published on the SustainUs Blog here: http://sustainus.org/2016/10/stand-with-standing-rock-not-on-it/
The sun was hot, and the pavement on Highway 1806 was even hotter. The guests at Sacred Stone Camp had just finished a communal lunch. They began falling into line behind the same banners that had led this march every day, a march up the highway to pray for the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction to halt. Just behind the banners, a cluster of Havasupai men and women gathered in rhythmic songs in their native tongue. The men sweated in colorful ribbon shirts, beating handheld drums. The women swayed to the beat in their tiered skirts and beaded shawls. For a half an hour, they sang like this, only briefly stopping when one of the women collapsed to the pavement in the heat. Today was their time to spiritually lead the protectors at Standing Rock. These Havasupai had come clear from the southwestern deserts for this purpose. No heat spell would deter them, and certainly no oil company was going to threaten a group of faraway strangers who had been subjected to the same governmental policies and historical trauma.
When I protested alongside Standing Rock and other allies on September 3rd, the vision was clear: peacefully protect. The camp never exacerbated hate. Even as Lakota churches (prayer rings, burials, and cairns) were being destroyed by the pipeline company, the front lines offered up their forgiveness for the workers’ ignorance. Each day centered around prayer and song, of renewing our connection. Daily ceremony is something I have become accustomed to on the Navajo Nation, where medicine men can be seen leaving their hogans to greet the sunrise with corn pollen. This kind of ceremony is a practice used to maintain balance that I find separates the indigenous from the spiritually landless who have lost their indigenous roots.
The #NoDAPL movement at Standing Rock is a powerful one because of the prayer that maintains its focus and the cultural diversity that is revered. These are important qualities that are quickly lost in predominantly non-indigenous circles. Since the beginning of contact, certain language has been used to degrade and dehumanize indigenous peoples on Turtle Island. Outdated stereotypes constitute the majority of indigenous representation in mainstream media. Expensive football tickets are sold in the country’s capital for a team named after a racial slur. Attitudes that justify calling an indigenous woman “squaw” contribute to the highest rates of rape in a single race. Indigenous people also have the highest rates of youth suicide and police violence per capita, and all of these statistics can be attributed to stereotypes and misrepresentation. Why is this important to #NoDAPL? This misrepresentation leads to media censorship and the appropriation of the movement.
If we think about censorship and #NoDAPL, we might picture corporate censorship that protects the energy company from a negative light. This type of censorship has undoubtedly occurred in mainstream media, highlighting one paradox that plagues tribal nations: that an energy company can have a more sovereign representation in the media than an actual sovereign entity. While Energy Transfer receives journalistic immunity, Standing Rock is subject to slanderous quotes by the authoritative voice of a Sheriff who was not present and of white community members who view the protest as an inconvenience to their privileged lives. The LA Times published elements of Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier’s formal statement regarding the event in which he states, “Any suggestion that today’s event was a peaceful protest, is false…Individuals crossed onto private property and accosted private security officers with wooden posts and flag poles”. (Kirchmeier was not present at the site, therefore he reported information given by Energy Transfer personnel.) The New York Times quoted one resident asking, “You get 2,000, 3,000 Natives together – is it safe?”. It’s unbelievable that such a quotation was published. (You also get several thousand non-Native people gathered at sports games. Is that safe?) It reflects the mentality of the community around Standing Rock.
However, I would argue that the censorship of indigenous peoples runs much deeper than this kind of surface censorship. There is also censorship through the representation of both the movement and Standing Rock as a nation. How many articles have been published that take quotes strictly from Sherif Kirchmeier or Energy Transfer employees? The media’s decision to rarely interview the hundreds of tribal national presidents and leaders who have voyaged to Cannon Ball demonstrates either the media doesn’t believe – or doesn’t believe their readers believe – that these indigenous peoples are as important as non-indigenous representatives of a corporation or local law enforcement. Instead, it takes celebrities like Shailene Woodley and Leonardo DiCaprio to capture America’s respect for #NoDAPL. Woodley represented the cause early, joining the Standing Rock youth on their run to Washington, D.C. In July, she posted an Instagram picture from the Capitol with the text, “The youth of the Standing Rock Reservation ran 1,800 miles from North Dakota to Washington, D.C. to protect their water from the Dakota Access Pipeline that will be built on their reservations.” She then included a link to the #NoDAPL petition in her bio.
An additional concern is how mainstream representation of the Dakota Access Pipeline dispute fails to capture the spirit of the movement. This is not some battle cry for Mother Earth or even some radical environmental statement. This movement is centered around sovereignty. Just like our natural resources, if our sovereignty is compromised then so is everything else in our lives. What is on the line? Our freedom of expression, of religion, of access to culture. The media censors the #NoDAPL movement by failing to elaborate on this core issue. This absence of representation instead perpetuates the ignorance many non-indigenous communities have around the political status and alleged freedom of tribal nations, and how many hundreds of them exist in America alone.
Finally, just as language can be used to dehumanize a group of people through racially-charged vocabulary, it can also be used to make one race of people’s culture seem inferior, pushing it to the fringe of society. As Simon Moya-Smith points out, BuzzFeed’s use of quotations around the destruction of Lakota “sacred sites” insinuates a religious inferiority. Would we publish that terrorists bombed a Catholic “church”? It’s the same story, just a different race.
While mainstream media seems vetted against properly representing Standing Rock and its efforts, thousands of non-indigenous people have gathered in Cannon Ball and at marches in cities to stand in solidarity with the tribe. Less than a week after Energy Transfer’s hired security guards attacked unarmed people and intentionally destroyed sites protected by NAGPRA to advance their motives, our SustainUS delegation held its retreat at Canticle Farms in Oakland, California. The day I arrived to Oakland, San Francisco held its solidarity march for Standing Rock. I joined the march and learned something I hadn’t realized before: Movements – and not just culture – can be appropriated, and the consequences are uncannily destructive.
It was uplifting to see so many people gathered in support of a cause hundreds of miles away; however, it was discouraging to see stereotypes, generalizations, cultural appropriation, and misrepresentation within the movement itself. Non-natives were smudging, beating drums, and seemingly trying to imitate the prayer at Standing Rock. Just like the generalizing comments I read on article links, folks would say things that imply all Natives are peace-loving and earth-worshipping. This generalization is not accurate, and it buries the environmental issues we have in our tribal communities such as dumping and limited access to recycling services under a race-based stereotype.
Furthermore, as the protesters gathered on September 8th in downtown San Francisco to draw attention to the movement, they took what the movement stood for and appropriated it. Instead of calling for the defense of Lakota sovereignty, protesters were suddenly blocking entire intersections, screaming up at the CitiBank building, and accusing the San Francisco Police Department of defending the bank’s entrance. This caused a huge divide in protesters as Native citizens cried: “This is a peaceful demonstration of solidarity. This does not embody the sentiments at Sacred Stone Camp. Stop making this about you!”
It is so crucial to remember the #NoDAPL fight is to protect tribal sovereignty, not to protest anything else. It’s this sovereignty that is undermined by Native mascots, media censorship, and non-tribal entities’ use of eminent domain on treaty lands. For a country that has supposedly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in the last year, the United State’s complacency towards Energy Transfer’s blatant disrespect for tribal sovereignty should be more alarming than ever. Chariman David Arcahmbault II has recently taken this issue to the United Nations to receive international support. Now it’s our delegation’s turn to make sure #NoDAPL is properly represented in person, spirit, and media as we bring this issue of tribal sovereignty and corporate power to COP22.
While America and its media outlets were focused on the Debate last night, the US Court of Appeals denied Standing Rock its injunction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On September 2, 2016, the tribe had filed numerous sacred sites, graves, and other important cultural areas that are protected by federal law and which were along the proposed pipeline route in Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Receiving cultural compliance after archaeological and ethnographical surveys is standard procedure for any and all construction projects in the United States. However, Energy Transfer claimed to have completed these surveys of Lakota land without actually consulting Lakota experts on what their sacred sites look like or where they are located. When the tribe was finally able to survey the area, experts immediately identified dozens of locations and filed for an injunction.
On September 3, 2016, a Saturday morning on Labor Day weekend, Energy Transfer skipped over 13 miles of planned construction in order to destroy the identified sites before the courts could review the case. This led to the first confrontation between unarmed Protectors and hired personnel. The energy company claimed Standing Rock tribal members and their allies were trespassing on treaty land; Protectors argued their inherent rights to protecting such sites, especially when the company was not allowed to proceed with a pending injunction. The injunction was temporarily granted.
Protectors kept filing into the Sacred Stone Campground, ready each day for the destruction to continue. A number of non-violence trainings were held to help Protectors keep the spirit of the movement intact. Then, last night on October 9, 2016, the US Court of Appeals denied Standing Rock the injunction — on a Sunday night while the world was watching the Presidential Debate.
Shailene Woodley, who has been active since the Standing Rock youth ran over 2,000 miles to hand-deliver a petition to DC, arrived yet again to the front lines in Cannon Ball.
Protectors were ready at the front lines as militarized riot police arrived on the scene. Woodley kept her phone recording for about two hours this morning to make a video documenting the encounter. In the video, you can hear discussions about an accident on Highway 1806 that the police were blaming the #NoDAPL people for causing. The Protectors peacefully prayed, danced, and chanted until they were asked to disperse.
When Woodley returned to her RV on Highway 1806, she found it completely surrounded by police officers. You can hear her try to reason with them, stating that she left as asked. They accuse her of trespassing and she asks why she is being targeted? Is it because she had, at that moment, over 40K live views on her video? She handed the camera to her mother as the police proceeded to arrest her.
Woodley is not the only person who has been arrested in this lengthy defense of treaty land and tribal rights. She will also be far from the last. Please share this atrocity on social media using the hashtag #NoDAPL. This battle is far from over, and we need the world’s support.
Other ways to support include calling entities like the Army Corps of Engineers and announcing your position on the #NoDAPL case. As winter approaches in North Dakota, the Sacred Stone Camp is in need of supplies – so also consider donating.
We need to get this trending immediately, especially on #IndigenousPeoplesDay. Especially when neither Trump nor Clinton has made one mention of indigenous peoples in their debates. Share the news. Use the hashtag. Help us end this silence now.
With nearly 40k people watching live this morning from her Facebook streaming video, actress Shailene Woodley was arrested.
She retreated from the peaceful gathering as asked, yet returned to her RV on Highway 1806 to find it surrounded by police. As she hands her recording phone to her mother, she is informed she has trespassed and will be arrested. She asks why she has been singled out – is it because she is famous? Has a trending live video?
The officers cannot be heard or seen reading her her rights.
Woodley is being held at Morton County along with other Protectors following the US Court of Appeal’s denial of Standing Rock’s injunction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Shots from the live video:
How biased is the media you have access to? Have you heard much about the DAPL?
I don’t have television, so I have no idea what is playing on the news. I do know, however, that Google News has only articles from more obscure sources about DAPL and none of them are coming up as headlines. Compare that to my social media feed, filled with articles and posts shared by my largely Native friend base, and you can see how little important Native news makes it into mainstream media.
People are being arrested.
The popular video being shared today is from AJ+ and shows peaceful protestors being arrested. In one clip, a man who is walking away in a field is grabbed from behind and slammed to the ground as an officer handcuffs him.
DAPL is suing.
The energy company is claiming endangerment of its workers and a risk to its permits for delay in constructing its water crossings. Ironically, the protestors are claiming endangerment of their lives should the construction continue, adding to the sentiment the pipeline is causing amongst the Standing Rock people: “Is an entire people expendable?” The methods used to seek approval for construction of the pipeline are called into question.
More and more people are showing up.
I have a number of friends packing up their cars from Indiana to Idaho, ready to drive to North Dakota and risk arrest for the cause. Shailene Woodley, Divergent actress, is already on-site defending alongside the Sioux. Read her Twitter feed here.
30 youth just ran 2,000 miles.
They delivered a petition with 160,000 signatures to stop the pipeline to Washington. They began on foot from North Dakota.
Protestors are asking for support.
The Cheyenne River Sioux stands in solidarity with Standing Rock.
This letter was written to Washington on behalf of the cause:
Furthermore, transportation was provided for protestors:
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe are also backing up the Standing Sioux.
Salish Sea Bio Region members are raising funds to support the Native groups.
They plan to travel from Washington to North Dakota to stand in support of defending land and water rights. Their fundraiser is located here.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out as more people are planning to make the trip to North Dakota. I just hope my friends stay safe; the Dakotas are not exactly known for polite police officers when it comes to Native peoples.
In fact, it’s well past time.
Although I hold tribal membership in a different community, I was drawn last summer to work for the Navajo Nation government by its impressive example of tribal sovereignty in action. Not many tribal communities can brag they have their own Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, etc. Not every indigenous person can point out the window to a traditional plant or a sacred landmark. (My own tribe suffered both relocation and the Dawes Allotment Act.) Because of Navajo leadership’s ability to negotiate at Bosque Redondo, these are things the Navajo people have never lost and that they must never forget. The Navajo Nation has a powerful voice, so long as it chooses to speak.
I have heard Navajo leadership use this voice. It is loud, and it can be condemning. Think: Gold King Mine spill. Or: Delegate Crotty’s passionate denouncement against Donald “Drumpf”. However, when it comes to the environmental threats caused by extractive industries on tribal lands, whether on Navajo Nation or elsewhere, I hear relative silence.
And correct me if I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong on this.
It’s a sad reality that the modern Navajo government structure was essentially developed by the Federal Government around 1922 to pass off the rights to sign oil leases. Even the modern Federal Government is, shall we say, uncomfortably close to the lucrative extractive industries that have an incredible knack for getting away with compliance lapses and environmental devastation.
When, on November 6, 2015, President Obama rejected Phase 4 of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Lakota and their many allies celebrated this decision. It would save the Black Hills, a sacred site, from destruction. It would save the Ogallala Aquifer, the world’s largest source of underground freshwater, from contamination. It seemed like the message finally got across…except now the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is threatening the Plains yet again.
Not only will this proposed DAPL, constructed by a private energy company, also cross the vital Ogallala Aquifer, it will also cross the Missouri and Cannon Ball Rivers half of a mile away from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. In an immediate response, a campaign called #RezpectOurWater was launched, arguing that a leak in this line could destroy local water sources and make both people and animals sick. The youth in the campaign ask, “If it was your family at risk, would you be okay with it?” One girl states, “I guess they don’t think we’re that important.”
Do you remember how the Gold King Mine spill felt? How it still feels?
I have grown up being told by the elders around me: “The 3rd World War won’t be over land, or trade, or even religion. It will be over water.” As the Lakota say, “Mni wiconi.” Water is sacred.
I spent 2 years working for “big oil” as an Engineer. How I got there was a kind of sick irony. My undergraduate degree specialized in Environmental Engineering, yet, by the time I graduated, the “alternative energy” sector had transformed into the fracking industry. In that short timeframe, I experienced enough emergency response spills to know how I feel about this industry.
I would spend 12-hour shifts, day after day, holding air monitoring devices near the heads of migrant workers as they attempted to salvage spilled oil from contaminated streams in nature reserves. I carried empty water bottles to collect dead salamanders I spotted for the biology counts. (I used to catch these little guys in the woods at home. By 2014, I had seen more dead than living salamanders in my life.) I have also endured the misogyny of laborers while performing oversight on well pads. I suspect these man camps in Indian Country are responsible for the increase of rape and other violence against indigenous women.
Sure, an engineering job in the oil industry could make you rich. But what good is money when we’ve destroyed our collective home? The most finite of resources? Yet it’s not just the oil spills that are a concern. It’s also the idea of burning fossil fuels. The incredible impact humans have made to the health of our planet in just my short lifetime.
The theory of climate change is not a joke. There is a pure science behind it, just like the theory of gravity. We all feel the theory of gravity; it makes it easy to believe. But not all of us feel the theory of climate change to the same degree.
The whole concept is rooted in emissions. In fact, hozho is at the heart of this idea. Most people can probably understand the need for trees. Trees are the figurative lungs of our planet as they take all of the carbons dioxide we exhale and transform it into the oxygen we inhale. We need each other. It’s a beautiful balance. But, as we change the oxygen-breathing-organism-to-plant ratio, that’s similar to sitting in your garage with your car running. Likewise, as we change the chemical composition of the atmosphere through increased carbon emissions, we change how energy such as light and heat lingers in our air. We see these effects in everything, from the intensity of storms, to the melting of glaciers, to even the inability of calcium carbonate to precipitate into the ocean for coral and fish to build their skeletons.
Everything is interconnected.
I’m going back to graduate school this fall to study energy technology because I believe in the urgency of reducing these emissions. In fact, I was recently selected as a U.S. Delegate to travel with SustainUs for COP22 this November. We will be participating in the United Nations Climate Change Conference to lobby for a change in global policy. While I might feel only somewhat impacted by climate change from my home in Window Rock, I realize I have the privilege to influence change for those hit the hardest. There are people in “critical” countries and tribal communities that will literally lose their communities in the next few decades if we don’t come together as a Five Fingered family and make a change.
Last year’s COP21 delegation launched the campaign #ZeroBy2050, demanding leaders to adopt policy that would phase out emission-spouting industries with alternative solutions. The year 2050 was selected because, if the average temperature of the planet rises any more than 2C (which it is projected to reach by that year), vulnerable countries will be deluged by a rising sea. Entire islands, homes, cultures.
At UNITY this February, I sat on stage for a panel discussion and watched my Inupiaq friend, Teressa Baldwin, passionately describe her Arctic Circle culture. Then she burst into tears as she explained her traditional village would be completely underwater by the time she is a grandmother. The next morning, she left for Russia to strategize with other leaders from affected Arctic Circle communities.
We live in a global community. We must hold every person accountable for how they impact each other and our resources. And we absolutely must stand in solidarity with these entire communities who are at the immediate risk of losing everything on account of our silence, our turned blind eye.
How would you feel if someone was blowing secondhand smoke on your child? Would you ask them to stop? Or would you pretend each time not to see it, and then to not acknowledge the child’s subsequent struggle with asthma? The child is our future generations. The smoker is the fossil fuel industry, and that industry is a chain smoker determined to never kick the habit.
In order to reach this emissions goal, we must already be in the energy transition. Creating green jobs, setting new emissions standards, holding Big Oil accountable. Taking the hands of both tribal and federal leaders out of the pockets of these industries. We know this, and yet oil, gas, and coal companies have already laid claim on deposits representing 2,795 gigatons of carbon. To meet the 2C mark by 2050, no more than 565 gigatons can be developed between 2011 and 2049. 2,795 is five times this limit. Think of that. Then think of these proposed pipelines that are meant to slice and dice Indian Country, traveling thousands of miles over freshwater reserves and sacred sites.
Navajo Nation leadership, this is your chance. If you voiced solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux, if you committed to this fossil fuel phaseout, if you began sincerely investing in green jobs… Not only would the Navajo Nation become a leader in what tribal sovereignty means today, but it would also set an example for the entire world.
The Navajo Nation has such a potential to be a powerful voice and a world leader. I just hope we all make the right decision and choose Solidarity over Oil Prosperity.